ADOPTION / TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
While many adoptions begin through an agency, some originate from other private opportunities. For example, a stepparent may desire to adopt his or her spouse’s children, or a birth mother may discuss the possibility of adoption with a friend or relative rather than working with an agency.
An adoption is a legal proceeding that is actually a fusion of two separate events: (1) the termination of the parental rights and duties of a biological parent(s), and (2) the creation of legal parental rights and duties in the adopting parent(s). Because the consequences of a termination/adoption are personally monumental and almost always irreversible, the court proceeds with caution and requires strict adherence to the procedures, background checks, and other filings. Further, some adoption actions are required to go through the Juvenile Court system while others are contained within a District Court.
An adoption may be contested or uncontested in nature. A contested adoption is one where the biological parent whose rights are sought to be terminated seeks to protect his or her status and prevent an adoption from occurring. An uncontested adoption happens when a biological parent agrees to voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights or when they fail to answer a properly served petition for adoption. Regardless, a final adoption hearing is required before the assigned judge.
An adoption case may take as little as a few months to complete or as long as a few years depending on the circumstances and desires of the parties involved. The assistance of an attorney is, therefore, invaluable whether to assist an individual whose rights are sought to be terminated or to bring about the adoption for the hopeful petitioner.